four Prime Causes Why Planning A Novel Will Pace ​​Up Your Writing Course of

Are you afraid of planning a novel or do you love it? Plotters and panthers often have different perspectives – but which one are you?

Declaring yourself as a plotter or a panther is like being asked to choose a house at Hogwarts: are you a house planner or a house panther? Which one?

In your writing career I can guarantee that you will be in contact with writers from both "houses" and I am not sure if there will ever be a definitive answer that one team is better than the other.

However, I think planning a novel has extreme advantages. Last but not least, there are four main reasons planning a novel will speed up your writing process as you write your first draft and your next drafts.

I used to be a suspender too

This article is all about planning, but first let me make it clear that I was once the ultimate pant suit. I ended NaNoWriMo a total of five times by just peeing. I dove in, no planning, and just wrote. These NaNoWriMo sessions produced three 50,000 word short stories and parts from two other books.

I was proud to have finished these books, but at the same time I had mixed feelings every time I read them.

They all started with a solid idea, but usually after a few thousand words I lost control of the story. What followed was a desperate attempt to get the conspiracy on track, much like herding cats. By the time I got to the end of each book, I looked back at the bumpy, crooked path that led me there and felt quite dissatisfied.

And yet I was resistant to planning.

It felt terribly limiting to create an entire book and follow it step by step. Because of this, I pissed my pants for a long time.

It was only a few years ago that I realized the value of planning and the efficiency it brought to my writing.

In addition, I learned how to do it right – a method that kept my creativity and my ability to finish stories motivated. I was proud of that and felt the stories come to life instead of being flattened.

Planning brings freedom

Contrary to my initial belief in sketching a book, I've now realized that planning isn't limiting at all. Indeed, planning frees writers. It gives us the freedom to explore the story and character without worrying about where the next plot point will come from.

When I wrote without planning – panting at every word – I actually felt more bound. I always had a nagging worry in the back of my mind:

What if I write myself in a corner?

What if I finish the story before I reach my word count?

What if I realize I need a subplot but I'm too advanced to develop one?

Plotting removes all of these questions and more because by planning you can see the book as a whole, spot problems early, and make adjustments before you have fifty thousand words on paper.

Let's take a look at four main reasons why you should plan your novel and how these can help you speed up your writing.

4 top reasons why planning a novel will benefit your writing process

There are many reasons to plan a book, and the planning can be different for each person. Regardless of the planning method, however, some principles remain the same.

In this section, I'll go into detail about the main reasons why planning a book is a smart strategy and how it can make your life as a writer easier.


Some writers resist planning a novel. These four main reasons explain why planning a novel will actually benefit your writing process.

1. Get a holistic view of your story

The word "holistic" is a buzzword these days. In practical terms, “holistic” means looking at the parts of something and seeing its role as part of a whole.

Planning isn't just about the stimulating incident, backstory, climax, character development, and all of the key details that advance the plot. It is also important to ask, "How does this detail fit into the story and affect the rest of the pieces?"

A gasping writer can only deal with one detail at a time, making it harder to see its connection to the whole story. At least until the processing phase.

Consider a chapter that introduces the backstory for the main character.

A panther can dive straight into a sophisticated story: Perhaps the hero has lost his parents. They tried to keep the family business going but failed and now they are trying to start a high risk business to save the company.

Immersion in such a scene can go wrong in a number of ways. The biggest of these is that not all of what you write is accurate.

The reverse problem could also occur – it leaves out something that you would need to address later. This leads to confusion. Perhaps after a few chapters the author realizes that the character's brother is the real reason their family business failed, except that they have already established that she and the brother were estranged after their parents' deaths.

Now the author has to go back and correct the backstory and possibly a variety of minor references in the story where they refer to the main character's relationship with this brother.

This is a polishing nightmare.

By this point, much of the book may already be written, so the only options are to either revise it later or make major tweaks – and fixing action holes later is always harder than getting it right the first time.

You are much more likely to overlook important details when editing.

However, if you were to plan this scene, you would simply write this down:

Chapter 2: Backstory

  • MC lost parents
  • MC becomes estranged from brother
  • MC ponders how they lost the family shop after not getting any major deals

As you plan forward and quickly take such notes in the ensuing scenes, the nature of the relationship between the MC and her brother becomes clearer. No problem. Go back to the scene, cross out and change the second line:

MC estranged from brother becomes:

  • MC and his brother try to run the family business together

This way, the plot hole is fixed before the writing even starts.

Isn't that a relief?

2. Avoid writer's block

We all have trouble getting started at times.

Call it writer's block, call it procrastination, call it fear. At the end of the day, we all came up with an excuse that kept us from writing. It cannot be avoided.

I used to think when writer's block came I had no choice but to put my writing aside and wait. This ultimately led to many wasted hours and days with nothing written – until I finally realized the reason Why I suffered from writer's block:

Writer's block occurs when I don't know what to write.

Perhaps it is hard to know where to take the story from any given point. Maybe there are too many (or not enough) ways to end a scene. Perhaps a character developed way too unexpectedly. Or maybe you just sit down and stare at that blank screen with no idea what's next.

Fortunately, writer's block can be easily avoided if a book is planned before you start writing. I actually can't remember the last time I had writer's block because whenever I sat down to write, all I had to do was refer to my schedule. When I did that, I knew exactly what to write that day.

How can you plan your chapters and novels?

First, divide the plan into chapters and scenes. They don't have to be terribly tiny. Just a list of tasks for a scene like in the previous section is enough.


Planning a novel doesn't have to be a daunting task. Start by breaking the plan down into scenes. Then write down a small list of tasks for each. Find out more in this post.

If you get stuck writing in the middle of a scene, watch the next scene. How do your characters get into this scene? Look at this and then come up with storyline events that will bring that character to this location.

Remember, you want the first draft to be ugly and messy. As long as it moves through the scenes and continues the story, it has served its purpose.

How can you start your novel plan? Play with the plot.

For this purpose, I recommend the Hiveword tool created by James Scott Bell, which includes a handy scene planner that allows you to look at the scenes in your story like little flashcards. You can then rearrange them using drag and drop. The tool is easier and more intuitive to use (not to mention the cheaper ones) than larger tools like Scrivener, and allows you to quickly set up a few scenes that you rearrange according to plan.

This is the scene list for my upcoming novel Headspace. It all started with these forty-four ill-named and briefly planned scenes.

Most of the characters' names have changed by the end of the first draft. Some of these scenes were scrapped before I even got their part in the book, and the details in each scene were vaguely referred to. The plan still helped.

We'll get into the details of scene planning in a later post in this series. But I wanted to share this because this messy list of scenes helped me finish my first draft in six non-aligned weeks, even if the final product didn't look like it.

3. Concentrate on the essentials

It is easy to lose track of things when putting on pants.

A scene is started and immersed in the beautiful surroundings in which it takes place. However, after two pages of beautiful descriptions of the outside of a sacred temple, it becomes clear that this is actually not important as most of the scene takes place inside the building.

Maybe a supporting character will be introduced. This person is mentioned in the shortest possible way and seems to have no bearing on the story. It later turns out that her role is much larger than originally thought and her introduction was completely inappropriate for her role. Why is that a problem?

This is not the case only slows down the writing process, but also introduces the problem of finding a whole new way to include and describe this character in the book.

Of course, it is impossible to plan for all eventualities, but for most it is possible to plan. Start your planning by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the central message of my story?
  2. Who are the main characters and why are they doing what they are doing?
  3. In which important places does the story take place?
  4. Which events / objects / interactions should my readers really focus on?

When I wrote Headspace I had no idea what the topic was going to be until halfway through planning. In the book, another character accuses the MC, Astra, of not having a great vision.

During this conversation I realized that Astra had to admit to both the other person and herself that she only wanted one thing – to go home. Or more precisely, to regain their old life, even if it becomes more and more impossible every day. So the theme of the book – and the series – was born out of her desire. The topic of home.

This discovery was a product of mine that asked the four questions above and why I encourage you to do the same when you write your first draft.

Once you've answered these questions, you'll have a much better view of what to focus on – and what not to focus on. This will save you time trying to figure out exactly how important it is to describe the pothole your character will drive over on a rainy day.

Or better yet, stop spending hours writing that scene with that pothole – before you realize it's better to be thrown away than saved.

4. Planning is fun

In all honesty, I found it hard to believe myself until I really got the hang of it to plan. But really? Planning can be really fun. It allows you to explore all the scenarios and possibilities without having to deal with pages and pages of paraphrases.

Imagine a character at an intersection. Turn left for good, turn right for evil. Let's go on an adventure. Off home. Which way are they going?

If the writer gasped, he had to pick one, follow it, and see where it ultimately leads. This could become a brilliant book, or it could lead to fifty pages of useless material if they realized they'd preferred to take a different route.

But not in the planning. In planning, it's easy to list every opportunity, follow every whim, and feel every thread. It is possible to try out the wildest storylines and try out ridiculous theories to see how they play out. And since you don't write them until you plan, don't waste time rewriting scenes if you see ahead of time that they won't work.

Think of planning a novel as a time to explore and enjoy all of the goofy whims you may have about your book. Bring your ideas out, then decide which sides make up.

Because what happens in the book plan stays in the book plan.

Six elements of the plot will help you plan your book

You may be impatient to start planning your book before we dive into the intricacies of the process. For those in a hurry, you can use two easy steps.

  1. Reference the six elements of the plot and think about what each looks like in your book.
  2. Make a list of three to five “story events” that can take place in your book to help advance each element.

Ask yourself:

  • What happens in the event that triggered the incident?
  • Who is involved
  • How do you feel about it?
  • What's the dilemma?
  • What choice does your character have to make? Is it between two good things or two bad things?

Refer to the first reason why planning a novel is worth your time – how taking a holistic view of your book can help you plan a novel – as an example of listing story events.

Don't overthink it. Keep it simple Think: this will happen in my book.

When you're done, you should have a list of twenty to thirty different events. This is the very first starting point for planning.

Don't knock on planning until you've tried it

It is valuable to gasp. In a later post, we'll go into the different ways you can plan your book while still maintaining a level of pants. But try planning first. Maybe you like it!

It's easy to think of planning a novel as a monumental task, especially since there are so many different methods of story planning.

Let me assure you, there is only one method you need to plan a novel: the one that works for you.

If you follow this blog series you will get all the methods and tips on how I plan my books. You can customize and change the parts as it suits you. Once you find what fits your method, you may find that planning is your new favorite strategy for first drafting and writing.

And remember: planning a novel before writing a novel is always less work than trying to find inconsistencies and edit them after you're done.

Have you ever tried planning a book? What were your reasons for planning (or the pants)? Let know in the comments.


If you've followed this series on How to Write Faster, you probably have a story to write off about. Now go to that story! (Don't have an idea yet? Try this one: The shoe in the middle of the street was incredibly big.)

Now, start planning the exciting incident in your story. Use a few short bullet points to write down what will happen in that scene.

As you plan, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. What is the central message of my story?
  2. Who are the main characters and why are they doing what they are doing?
  3. What are the main places where the story takes place?
  4. Which events / objects / interactions should my readers really focus on?

Spend fifteen minutes completing this plan. When you're done, let us know your plan in the comment section. Also give feedback on the scene plans from three other authors!

J. D. Edwin